Photo of Lauryn Nanouk Jones
Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) is excited to announce the award of the Living with the Land and Building Community - Future of Alaska Scholarship to our Environmental Policy intern, Lauryn Nanouk Jones.
Investing in the next generations and Alaska’s future has been a core part of the work of the Sitka Conservation Society since the organization was founded in 1967. The Sitka Conservation Society has hosted internships for high schoolers and college students for over 20 years. In addition to providing the opportunity for new individuals to come to Alaska and form connections with the natural world of the Tongass, these internships have helped reconnect students that have long connections with the Society themselves, including the grandchildren of one of SCS’s founders, Jack Calvin. For the past decade, Sitka Conservation Society has also worked together with University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension to put on a robust 4-H program to prepare youth with the skill-sets they need to be part of the future of Alaska and learn-by-doing with hands-on education and experiential learning. SCS formalized our internship program in 2019 to support high school interns in their work on environmental policy, rural economic development, and sustainability issues in response to a demand from youth to address the urgency and the increasingly limited timescale needed to take action on climate change problems that are affecting Southeast Alaska as a region and the State as a whole. SCS believes that youth are leading the charge on climate change action to take control and advocate for their future, and we aim to support them in achieving their goals by providing mentorship, materials and resources, and career experience.
Since October 2021, Lauryn Nanouk Jones has served as an Environmental Policy Intern who works with SCS, and local youth groups such as Youth for Sustainable Futures (YSF) and Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA). Her work has focused on leadership development and advocating for policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels. She has participated in and helped lead the efforts of local youth environmental initiatives by developing strategies and creating actions to engage youth in climate change awareness and advocacy.
In the fall of 2021 Lauryn wrote and submitted a moving commentary detailing her desire for Alaska elected leadership to heed the concerns and recommendations of the people that live with and depend upon sustainable management of the natural world. Though she noted that her home of Unalakleet and Sitka are very different, she was able to relay her hope for this kind of natural resource protection across Alaska: “My Grandmother used to tell me stories about Unalakleet. She would tell me stories of the times she and my grandfather and their friends drove 60 miles north on the sea ice in a truck to the nearest village of Shaktoolik. I haven’t been able to step onto the actual sea ice and walk more than 15 feet since I was 9. Almost a decade. That was when my family and others were able to set crab pots on the ice. When there was crab for us to harvest…When I first landed in Sitka, I noticed the mountains looming over the city of Sitka. And the hundred-foot-tall cedar trees cover the land. It is all breathtaking. Through my time in Sitka, I have seen the open areas along the trees where trees were harvested by loggers. I have worked with scientists and researchers in Sitka about ocean acidification in the waters and the effects climate change is having on the oceans ecosystems…both of these places are impacted by climate change. Unalakleet has a long way to go when it comes to fighting climate change, and I feel like I can learn a lot from being in Sitka Conservation Society to help push my community in the right direction. I see what you are doing to try and preserve the Tongass National Forest and that gives me hope.” Throughout her internship, Lauryn has continued to develop and strengthen her voice to speak on her generation’s hopes, fears, and encourage lawmakers to enact policy that responds to the magnitude of the challenges that her generation faces today.
In offering this internship, SCS aims to develop the skills and abilities of the next generation of Alaskan leaders to learn about about policy related to climate change throughout the region and State, as well as how to advocate for and catalyze social, economic, and environmental policy change at a local, state, and federal level. This scholarship was created to support the future endeavors of the next generation of Alaskan leaders.
Emily Pound, SCS Community Sustainability Organizer, states, “Lauryn is the first recipient of this scholarship due to her exemplary work in developing her public speaking skills and confidence in order to convey information to her peers and the broader public on climate change and the significance of its impacts to the local community. Lauryn endeavored to use her voice to encourage others to participate in the democratic system with the belief that this system will only meet the needs of future generations if youth are able to speak out and give voice to those priorities.”
SCS would like to thank Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) for everything they do for the youth of this state and for investing in a program to continue connecting them with work experience and local organizations. SCS has sincerely valued working with MEHS to host these high school policy internships and are looking forward to continuing to offer this opportunity in the future.
Please contact SCS for more information on youth internship opportunities, the Living with the Land and Building Community 4-H program, and environmental policy initiatives.
Sitka’s youth are stepping up and speaking out for a healthy planet and a healthy future. During an assembly meeting in February, members of Youth for Sustainable Futures gave public testimony urging the Sitka assembly to pass a resolution declaring a climate change emergency. Though it did not pass, it gave them more visibility as a group and inspired discussion and ideas of compromise. Now, with the drastic changes put upon us by COVID-19, YSF realize that preparation for global catastrophes like these is key. And, because of quarantine, they are reminded that the outdoors is always waiting for us, even when much of our life has been stripped away, so it is vital that we all look after it.
Due to the current pandemic these leaders have unfortunately been forced to leave the classrooms and for some at Mt. Edgecumbe High School forced to leave Sitka. Still, Youth for Sustainable Futures is committed to advocacy and civic duty. We want to express our deep gratitude for the Alaskan youth who have been stepping up in times of hardship, both as we tackle this pandemic and the actions they have taken in the last few months for a more sustainable future.
We also want to share the inspiring words of Mt. Edgecumbe students Kate Zaczkowski and Abbie Fish, who both wrote public commentaries for KCAW Raven Radio, speaking passionately about the importance that our community come together in solidarity to advocate for a more sustainable and healthy future.
We encourage you to take a moment and listen to these youth for words of action and inspiration. As Kate says in her commentary, “My outlook on the future is becoming positive. I see a lot of people ready to learn about the effects of climate change such as ocean acidification, land erosion, increase in wildfires, glacial melt, and rise of sea levels. I also see people ready to make changes to become more sustainable and to reduce their emissions, which will lead to better outcomes for our state. This is inspiring to see and I believe that the youth of Alaska will do what Alaskans do best and come together for the sake of our beautiful state.”
Video and photo by Muriel Reid.